What to eat with hummus
As A Person On The Internet, I hear about hummus a lot. I see it recommended for vegans, for athletes, for snacks, for potlucks.
As a grown-up lady, a vegan, and a dietitian to boot, I know what to eat with hummus. But does everyone? If you’re new to the idea, you might not know what to eat with hummus. Strap in, this might be a long one!
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What is hummus?
Hummus is a blended paste with a chickpea (aka garbanzo bean) base. It usually has garlic and lemon juice and is seasoned with tahini (ground sesame seeds) and salt. Hummus originated in the Middle East and is most often used as a dip or a spread.
Nutrition benefits of hummus
You’ll often see recommendations to eat hummus for health reasons. Research has linked eating hummus to lower heart disease risk, lower cancer risk, lower cholesterol, more regulated blood sugar, more regular digestion, and better overall eating habits.
(You can read more about the benefits of high-fiber carbohydrates like chickpeas in this blog article.)
And this is great. But what does an athlete need to know?
Here is a typical nutrition panel for a container of hummus. I don’t have clients look at these very often, because they can be anxiety-producing, but I’ll make a quick exception. Let’s break this one down.
Two tablespoons of this hummus contains 60 calories. That is not much, and is one reason why you’ll see it recommended: plenty of people out there are scared of calories. Don’t be scared of calories.
But let’s also be realistic. You’re probably eating more than two tablespoons of hummus at a time. So, let’s call it 120 calories in one quarter cup. That’s better for energy. Still don’t be scared of calories.
Two tablespoons of this hummus contains 4 grams of fat. That’s… whatever, for most situations. But it could be important if you’re within a couple of hours of a game. Is that 4 g of fat going cause a digestive issue while you’re exercising? What about if you had more hummus and it was 8 grams? That depends on you and your own body, and it’s something to keep in mind.
Saturated fat and trans fat
Two kinds of fat that you should be mindful of are saturated fat and trans fat. Saturated fat is not evil, it’s just something to pay attention to. This hummus (and most hummus) has none. Trans fat is … bad. I don’t use that word often, but the research is pretty clear. Limit trans fat as much as you can. Again, this hummus has none.
Two tablespoons of this hummus contains 5 grams of carbohydrates. That isn’t a pretty small amount, so pair hummus with something with carbs for the best energy.
Two tablespoons of this hummus contains 1 gram of fiber. I know, it seems like it should be more, given that it’s made from beans. Nevertheless, more than the two tablespoon serving might make this too much fiber to eat right before a game or practice, especially if you’re dipping something that also has fiber (which you most likely are).
Two tablespoons of this hummus contains 2 grams of protein. This is not a lot. Are you surprised? Given how often it’s recommended, did you think it had more protein than this? I think a lot of people expect more protein from hummus, because of all the hype around it.
Don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad, or terrible, or not-worth-it amount of protein. It’s just not high in protein. Recommendations for protein consumption in a meal vary from 15-30 grams. For a snack, it’s harder to generalize, but even if you eat more like one quarter cup of this, that’s still just 4 grams of protein.
Flavors of hummus
What? Flavors? Yes, flavors. If you go the store, you can find hummus in lots of different flavors, and sometimes even made of things other than chickpeas. (I’m not going to argue that any or all of these count as traditional hummus. But they’re out there.)
I don’t think I can cover every variety or flavor of hummus you can buy, but here are some I’ve seen and tried.
Basic, or Original, or Plain
This is the most traditional hummus: chickpeas, tahini, garlic, lemon juice. Most brands will have something like this.
Roasted Red Pepper
This is possibly the most well know of the hummus varieties, and it’s also my favorite. Most brands will make it. It’s lovely; you don’t even have to like red peppers that much to like it.
More garlic than the traditional hummus. Perhaps don’t eat this one on the bus!
Can’t decide between guacamole and hummus? Have both. Together.
I like jalapeno. And I thought this one was, well, weird.
Not sure what’s up with this. There is lemon in regular hummus. I’m assuming this is more… lemony. I have never tried it!
One more that I’ve never tried. I imagine if you like olives, these two flavors go together really well.
Yeah, you read that right. Some of them are made of chickpeas, and some use white beans instead, but these are sweet versions of hummus that you can either make or buy. Ones I’ve seen are Brownie Batter, Sea Salt Caramel, and Cookie Dough.
To make or buy?
Store bought hummus is fine. If you make it yourself, it will taste and feel fresher. For some people on some days, this would be worth it. For other, not so much. You will have to decide?
If you want to try to make dessert hummus, give this recipe a shot! Be warned, the site isn’t vegan and there is some diet talk in the article with the recipe. But it’s tasty!
How to buy
If you’re choosing to buy hummus, there are lots of formats to choose from. The most common is a tub from the refrigerated deli section. These will need to be refrigerated at your home, and used within about a week once opened.
If you’re going to travel with this as a dip, you’ll have to put it in a sealed container, and if you’re going to be gone more than a couple of hours, you’ll need to keep it cool with ice packs.
If that sounds like a pain, here are the upsides to buying larger tubs:
- easy to find
- cost effective
- less waste
- typically have more varieties available
However, sometimes you just need the ease of portability. For those times, single serving packages are available. Some of these need refrigeration, but some are shelf stable. **
If you are that athlete who is going to leave the empty hummus container in your bag, and then discover it months later covered in mold and yuck: please use a single serving product!
Now (finally) what to eat with hummus
Ok, here we are after all that blah. What to eat with hummus? One option is to just eat it by itself, hopefully with a spoon or some sort of utensil. But you can also pair hummus with lots of things!
As a dip
You can dip almost anything in hummus. Here are some ideas:
- raw vegetables: carrots, celery, bell peppers, cherry or grape tomatoes, jicama, cucumber, broccoli, mushrooms, greens
- cooked vegetables: zucchini, greens, potatoes
- chips, any variety: potato chips, tortilla chips, pita chips, bean-based chips, other grain-free chips like Siete **
- pita or other bread
Some grocery stores will have pre-cut veggies and hummus packaged together in their produce department. And some brands have grab-and-go items with hummus and pretzels or pita chips together, like this one from Sabra. **
My favorite is chips dipped in roasted red pepper hummus.
If you have dessert hummus, why not try cookies or fruit?
As a spread
Hummus is a great addition to your meals for a small kick of protein and flavor. Add hummus to just about anything. If you want specifics (which you do, right? because you’re reading an article about what to eat with hummus?), here are ideas:
- toast with fixings (even with avocado)
If you’re short on inspiration, here are two of my favorites! They’ll be showing up on my insta soon.
My favorite hummus wrap
- Spread hummus on tortilla or wrap.
- Add veggies: red onion, shredded carrot, tomato, lettuce, bell pepper, cucumber, spinach, cabbage, olives.
- Drizzle with balsamic vinaigrette.
- Wrap. Eat.
- Find napkins. Keep eating.
My favorite hummus sandwich
- Slice zucchini lengthwise, 1/4″ thick.
- Sauté in a small amount of olive oil.
- Toast two pieces of bread.
- Spread chipotle vegan mayo on toast.
- Spread hummus on toast.
- Add two layers of zucchini slices.
- Nom nom nom.
Eat hummus by itself with a spoon. Or use it for a dip with crackers, pretzels, vegetables like carrots and jicama, chips (potato, tortilla, pita, whatever). If it’s a dessert hummus, try dipping cookies or fruit. And if you’re not using it as a dip, go ahead and put it in a sandwich, wrap, burrito, bowl, taco, quesadilla, salad or toast-thing. Enjoy!
About the Author
Sarah Skovran, RDN LD ACE-PT, is a Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, ACE certified personal trainer, mom of a teen athlete, and is mostly vegan. She writes about sports nutrition, plant based eating, and adolescent nutrition at Plant Powered Teens, and sees in-person clients at her private practice in Maine.
Reister EJ, Leidy HJ. (2020). An Afternoon Hummus Snack Affects Diet Quality, Appetite, and Glycemic Control in Healthy Adults. The Journal of Nutrition. 150(8), 2214-2222. https://doi.org/10.1093/jn/nxaa139
Winham DM, Hutchins AM, Thompson SV. (2017). Glycemic Response to Black Beans and Chickpeas as Part of a Rice Meal: A Randomized Cross-Over Trial. Nutrients. 9(10), 1095. https://doi: 10.3390/nu9101095
Wallace TC, Murray R, Zelman KM. (2016). The Nutritional Value and Health Benefits of Chickpeas and Hummus. Nutrients. 8(12), 766. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu8120766